Actions Speak Louder than Words for America's Veterans

November 11, 2014
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." – President John F. Kennedy

Dear Friends,

Every Veterans Day our country reflects on the selflessness of the men and women who have donned a military uniform in service to our nation. We have a responsibility to honor them, not just through one day of commemoration, but through a consistent commitment to care for their needs, remember their service, and honor their sacrifice. Their legacy is our freedom.

There are over 25 million veterans nationwide today, including 30,000 in the 18th Congressional District. It’s our collective responsibility and duty to ensure that each veteran has the services, opportunities, and care he or she has earned. I consider it a sacred promise to our veterans, and I work hard to keep the promise.

I voted for a number of critical initiatives to help our veterans, including: passing a new post-9/11 GI Bill; expanding access to improved health services; and providing greater support for our military families. I’m proud to have the second Fisher House at the Palo Alto VA. They are places of comfort for families of veterans who help their loved ones heal and rehabilitate. I’m also exceedingly proud that we have the new, magnificent Defenders Lodge at the Palo Alto VA, which is already serving vets.

This year our resolve to live by the promises to our nation’s veterans was especially tested. Amid deeply disturbing revelations about delayed care of veterans nationwide and the scandal of information being manipulated, it was our actions—not our words—that proved meaningful.

As I assessed the accusations against the VA in certain regions of our country, I turned first to our own VA system in Palo Alto. Our communities are blessed to have one of the finest in the nation, serving veterans and their families throughout the Bay Area, as well as California and our country. Veterans surveyed on their satisfaction with the Palo Alto VA consistently score it above the national average for all VA medical centers and in the top 25 percent in the region for access to outpatient care. Veterans seeking primary care physicians experience well below average wait times. The Palo Alto VA’s superior performance was also corroborated by many veterans from the 18th Congressional District who attended a Town Hall Meeting in July that I hosted with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Palo Alto VA Director Lisa Freeman.

As part of our country’s promise to veterans, all VA systems should strive for this level of excellence. That’s why on the issue of delayed VA care, I voted for the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. The bill was signed into law and is bringing major reform to all VA systems by offering care to veterans at non-VA facilities to ensure that veterans’ needs are met even if the VA is not able to meet them. The bill increased funding for the VA to hire new doctors, improve facilities, and streamline the dismissal of senior VA employees for poor performance and misconduct. The legislation also created a Congressional Commission on Care to oversee VA health care access.

I believe we can do even more. Our Palo Alto VA system is in the heart of Silicon Valley, which has unique resources to lead the country in innovative care for veterans. Specifically, the power of public-private partnerships with our country’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs has the potential to yield untold improvements to veteran care. I recently joined Apple’s CEO Tim Cook at the Palo Alto VA to demo some of Apple’s emerging IT technology directed to veterans. The hope is to create useful avenues for patients and staff to schedule appointments and secure information, and I will continue to support more efforts like this.

On the battlefield, the military pledge is to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when our troops return home, we leave no veteran behind. This Veterans Day, let us honor their service with actions that fulfill our commitment to our troops, their families and our veterans—actions that are worthy of them from a deeply grateful nation.

Most gratefully,

Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress